Distributive policy

Delhi’s excise policy: ‘transparent’ or riddled with ‘irregularities’?

New Delhi, July 30 (IANS): With Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena giving the go-ahead for a CBI investigation into the Delhi government’s revamped excise policy and ordering the Chief Secretary to submit a report on the role of officers in its implementation implemented, immediately sparked a new round of continuous brawls between the ruling AAP and the BJP.

Even as the controversy refuses to die down, the Delhi government is considering reverting to the old liquor retail system in the city. According to sources, the old excise policy will be implemented over the next six months as the government strives to streamline a new policy for 2022-23.

In line with the Delhi government’s new excise policy which came into effect in November 2021, Delhi has been divided into 32 zones, with each zone having 27 liquor sales. The new policy included closing government-run liquor stores. The move was intended to curb the alcohol mafia and black marketing, increase revenue and improve the consumer experience, and ensure fair distribution of alcohol sales.

Additionally, the government has also relaxed the rules for licensees, such as allowing them to offer discounts and set their own prices instead of selling on the MRP set by the government.

Following this, heavy discounts were offered by sellers, which drew large crowds to wine shops. However, after opposition protests, the Excise Department withdrew the rebates for a time.

The policy also permitted the opening of stores in markets, malls, shopping roads/areas, local shopping complexes and other similar locations, provided that the standard rules and regulations for opening a new store are met. respected.

In 2021, 849 liquor store licenses were issued by the Delhi government, but many liquor stores closed due to financial loss. From 849 stores, they fell to 649 stores in May 2022. The closure of liquor stores continued and their number fell to 464 in June 2022. Stores were closed as many licensees were struggling profit after offering discounts due to competition and paying high license fees.

Excise Policy 2021-22 which expired on May 31 has been extended for two months by the department offering retail license holders the option of renewing their licenses by paying a pro-rated fee for the additional period. However, many licensees did not opt ​​for the extension and closed shop as they were already struggling to break even after paying high license fees.

According to sources, there were different reasons that have chilled the minds of retailers like the issue of opening liquor stores in non-compliant neighborhoods, stiff competition via steep discounts and entry of new brands. on the market.

Sources at the Delhi LG office claimed that there was a quid pro quo at the highest political level, where the Minister responsible for the Excise Department, Manish Sisodia, took and enforced major decisions/actions in violation of statutory provisions and the notified excise policy. which had enormous financial implications.

LG’s office also claimed that the Minister gave “undue financial favours” to liquor licensees long after the tenders were awarded and thus caused huge losses to the public purse.

Recent developments, including the commissioning of a CBI inquiry, have drawn strong reactions from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Dy CM Manish Sisodia. “I’ve known Sisodia for 22 years and I’ve never seen anyone as honest or as ‘deshbhakt’ as him,” Kejriwal said.

Recently, MP AAP Atishi said that the BJP cannot stomach the fact that liquor licenses are awarded in a transparent, fair and competitive manner in Delhi.

“This is because they can no longer sell illegal alcohol in the slums which was previously possible due to the uneven distribution of shops in Delhi under the previous policy,” the MP AAP said. “That’s why they’ve put together a false case and are abusing the power of the CBI, the Income Tax Department and the ED to threaten us to implement a clean, transparent, competitive excise policy and profitable. They cannot bear the fact that government revenue has increased and their illegal income has decreased,” Atishi added.